As we were heading from Hamilton, NZ, to Perth, Australia, it seemed like a good idea to visit Iggy’s daughter Amanda in Brisbane.
We left Hamilton at 2.30am and, expecting not to be served breakfast on our budget fare flight, had McDonalds for breakfast at Auckland Airport. We were then served a delicious breakfast midway between Auckland and Brisbane, followed by our magnificent meal at Shucked. Good thing that a hearty breakfast is considered to be healthy!
It had to happen. I am a feet firmly on the ground woman, but with my late father having flown 19,500 hours, two of my brothers heavily involved in recreational flying and my husband Iggy completely obsessed with aviation, there has to be the occasional post with a flying flavour.
It’s breath-taking how quickly Iggy can swing around all manner of topics into “that reminds me of a story” to do with flying. An invitation to the Piako Gliding Club’s Awards Night conjured up visions of a room packed full of Iggies, arms waving to demonstrate the phenomenal lift that came from a particularly good swathe of lenticular alto cumulus over the Kaimai Ranges or the death-defying speed with which they brought their gliders in to land at Matamata Airfield. Still, Kiwicommunicator must do what she must, so it was on with the lippie on a particularly inclement night, into the trusty Corolla, and over the swamps and plains to the Matamata Soaring Centre.
We had an excellent night out. Jan and Bill Mace can be credited with encouraging the club’s culture of hospitality and welcome. Newbies were pulled into conversations with old hands and – unusually for this part of the world – partners were included in genuine dialogue with the blokes. I especially enjoyed the company of Geoff, who ended up sitting alongside me. We shared an interest in cooking, art and jewellery. Geoff and I exchanged info on where you can buy tiny containers of coconut milk so that you don’t have to throw out the remaining half can (tins of Trident stocked by New World and tetra packs of Dole stocked by Countdown). A manufacturing jeweller based in Cambridge, Geoff cast the beautiful bronze award that was sitting at our table. It does not represent any bird in particular, but flight in general. I could almost be persuaded to take up gliding to have that trophy gracing my living room for a year.
Jan and Bill spent the afternoon putting together the dinner for nearly 50 guests – roast meat and lots of vegetables (I think the kumara and beans were most likely home-grown by the Maces). It’s such a treat, as roast dinners don’t feature on the menu for just the two of us. It wasn’t just the predictable dishes, either. I went back for seconds of Jan’s tomato and aubergines with a crumble topping. A big thumbs up to the gliding club members who rolled up their sleeves to help carve the meat and clear away after the dinner. It was like a big, happy family occasion – a wide range of age-groups and the warmest buzz of conversation.
Congratulations to the award winners – and to the crew who helped them get there: the instructors, those who prepare the briefings, the tow pilots, and those who crunch the numbers and show such good stewardship of club funds.
Tim Bromhead was successful in Australia – the first New Zealander to defend his place as winner of the prestigious Trans-Tasman Trophy.
June is nearly 87. She was a feminist before feminism was fashionable. She was insistent that I should be the first female on either side of our family to attend university because she saw having an education as offering choices. She has strong views, many of which are formed from listening to 1YA. (The radio station hasn’t been called 1YA officially for years, but that’s beside the point.) She researches topics and presents papers for her colleagues at U3A – the University of the Third Age. She is a generous hostess, who insists on putting food in front of anyone who visits.
June’s thinking is challenging and frequently ahead of her time. She was a Playcentre mother when the Playcentre movement was still considered somewhat suspect by her more conservative friends. They were sure that we would all turn out to be quite undisciplined because we were children who were offered choices – “freedom within boundaries”. Family comes first. My son turned up at her place unexpectedly and unkempt and covered in paint from his work – and June asked her guests at the smart luncheon party she was hosting to move over and make room for him to join them. He has a voracious appetite, but June found a way to stretch the meal.
June has four children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren – all very different people. However, there’s a distinctive bit of June in every one of us. Yesterday, we celebrated Mothers’ Day at the apartment of June’s second granddaughter (and my daughter) Victoria.
My friend has every reason to be so proud of her daughter who pulled in guests from far and wide for a surprise birthday high tea at Nostalgia in Ponsonby, Auckland. My friend was, indeed, surprised. We were all delighted to have the excuse to dress up and play ladies – and celebrate our friend’s birthday, too, of course!
Nostalgia has an atmosphere all of its own – elegant, dark, mysterious, and bordering on bordello. So sensual. Even the dashing waiter’s accent was exotic. The nearly 100 year-old building (and for New Zealand, that means seriously old) has been variously a shop with the shopkeeper’s home upstairs, a bar, and now a restaurant that serves banquet dinners and high teas. (There’s a whole lot of info on the Nostalgia website about high teas and low teas. Let’s not be too pedantic here and stick to the terminology that is generally understood.)
Nostalgia would be a great place to book out a private room for a group of friends to meet for dinner. The room we were in had the atmosphere of a library in a stately home. Gorgeous.
Feijoas and figs are sweet and aromatic. It’s hard to beat a platter of walnuts and blue cheese served with figs and/or feijoas. I am assured by various websites that both fruits are rich in nutritious goodies as well – a rare contradiction to the old song that “if you it’s something you enjoy it is certain that it’s illegal or immoral or will make you fat”.
Because of their poor shelf life, feijoas are expensive in supermarkets. Even more vulnerable is the fig. The only place I have seen figs for sale is at Hamilton’s The Country Providore, the subject of a previous Kiwicommunicator post. For this reason, feijoa and fig trees were high up the priority list to plant in our small suburban garden. While fig trees are considered to be too large for suburbia, we plan to manage the size of ours and hope that, even if frequently pruned, it will continue to fruit. Feijoas are happy to be kept as hedge plants. We watered the little feijoa trees and the fig tree in our garden throughout the drought and are well-rewarded.
Having worked hard for most of Sarah’s visit from the USA, we decided it was time for a spot of glamour and steered the trusty old Corolla towards Gordonton and the Zealong camellia plantation.
Zealong has an interesting history. To precis the story from the Zealong website – A lush camellia grew next to Tzu Chen’s Hamilton house. A lover of oolong tea, Mr Chen was struck by the similarities between tea plants and the camellia. From this he deduced that Hamilton would be the perfect environment to grow oolong tea. With his son, Vincent, Mr Chen imported 1500 tea seedlings from Taiwan in 1996. Only 130 made it to the plantation. Careful propagation, however, has resulted in over 50 hectares of tea plants. The tea is chemical-free and processed to the highest standard.
Kiwicommunicator was interested to hear the story when the tea house opened. Zealong has become one of her favourite destinations for impressing visitors to Hamilton. The plantation tour and tea-tasting is informative. Being more into indulgence than education on social occasions, when I take friends and family to Zealong it is to sample their high tea.
Hamilton is at its best ever when our grandchildren come to stay – all the way from Portland, Oregon in the USA. As Iggy says “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” so we had Jethro of JG Landcare Services create a fairy ring in a hidden spot in our garden and planned a fairy feast. I think the grownups had every bit as much fun as the kids. Kiwicommunicator says “It’s never too late to eat fairy bread!”
The best magic of all was playing with the fairy and the pixie. Kiwicommunicator is teaching Ana a song passed down through the generations:
“The fairies come in the night time
When everything else is still.
They slide down a ladder of moonbeams
Onto my window sill.
I lie very quiet and watch them
For fear of disturbing their play.
They sprinkle stardust on my eyelids
Then they fly away.”